Valley Shivers As It Rolls Out Carpet For PM Vajpayee
25 August 2003
The Indian Express
Srinagar: Mumbai's blasts had a disturbing echo in the Valley today as the state prepares for Prime Minister A B Vajpayee's visit and the first inter-state meeting being held outside the national capital. So far no militant group here has claimed responsibility. Even top security personnel say the Mumbai blast have nothing to do with Kashmir or Kashmiri militants. But rattled the most are the ruling People's Democratic Party and separatist Hurriyat Conference, both of whom were banking on a feeler from Vajpayee towards an early initiation of a dialogue. Their fear is that the blasts may chill the recent Indo- Pak thaw and decelerate the peace process. On a practical level, the scheduled meeting has become a serious security concern. The city's green belt-the venue for the chief ministers' conference on August 27 & 28-has turned into a fortress with security forces virtually taking over the Sher-i-Kashmir International Conference Centre and the InterContinental's Grand Hotel. CRPF and J-K police personnel have been mobilised to sanitise the hotel-where the guests are scheduled to be put up-area with scores of heavily armed personnel deployed around the entire hilly region that rings the venue. The spanking conference centre on the shores of the Dal Lake , where the CMs' conclave will be held, has been taken over by the Special Protection Group. Asked about the impact of the Mumbai blasts, IG Police (Kashmir) K Rajendra said all 'contingencies have been put in place.' Sources said Intelligence officials from several states have arrived in Srinagar to lend a hand to state authorities. Deep inside the Dachigam National Park, besides security, officials of Hospitality and Protocol are sprucing the venue for the Aug 28 luncheon to be hosted by Chief Minister Mufti Mohammed Sayeed. The guest list features L.K. Advani, 18 Union ministers, all CMs and senior secretaries. There is also renewed apprehension that things might hot up in Kashmir again. Although the security is on high alert because of the PM's visit, roadside checks and frisking is back. And if there is one single attack here, it will bring with itself more panic. 'Nobody is sure who did it at this point of time. But if you count the past experience, these blasts are aimed at scuttling any chances of Centre's peace move here,' a senior PDP leader said. 'It seems aimed at damaging the thaw in Indo-Pak relations. But the worst victims will be Kashmiris.'